before the dawn of the age of helmets, a cyclist's head covering was mostly limted to the ubiquitous casquette or, should one of the spring classics beckon, the not particularly well-named hairnet. the latter consisted of several sausage-like tubes of padded leather married to a similarly constituted headband. apologies if that's the least comprehensible explanation you've heard of such a device, but it's the best i can do.
now that we are in the era of made-to-measure casquettes, a facility that pretty much, hands down, beats the old one-size-fits-all, it seems a crying shame that this new-found millinery skill is most often concealed under a brightly coloured chunk of polystyrene.
search out photos from the era of jacques and eddy and you will frequently find them either mid-peloton or flying solo, wearing a sponsor's badged casquette that looks as if it couldn't possibly remain in situ for longer than it took the photographer to press the shutter. it maybe that such is precisely the conditions under which the images were captured and the fields of france and italy were once littered with untold herds of cotton cycle caps. but now that the era has gone forever, we may never know.
on the few occasions i have ventured out minus my cycle helmet, i have been singularly unable to achieve that particular look, where the cap sits atop one's head rather than firmly elasticated across the brow. possibly the ability to achieve the former is yet another skill that has escaped us?
but, in all my perusings of many a coffee table book filled to overflowing with photos of those particular decades, i have scarcely come across any in which the legendary hard-men of the day are wearing what we would contemporaneously refer to as a belgian-style winter cap. you surely know that of which i speak; styled similarly to that of the regular casquette, but born of a heavier material and sporting a flap that covers both ears and the rearmost portion of intervening head?
on the basis that the members of the velo club began wearing such headgear towards the end of last november and can still frequently be seen garbed thus, even now, it is odd that i have not come across many of a pelotonic bent in the photos of yesteryear. there is every likelihood that we will stil be wearing such millinery come early may, for an hebridean winter is every bit as long as you think it might be, a time for the head equivalent of super-roubaix and then some.
which is why it seemed prudent to offer a modicum of suspicion regarding a merino wool winter hat emanating from salt lake city in utah, a north american state that is just a tad too close to the pacific to comprehend just what a faux-belgian winter can truly be like. it has, according to legend, a dry continental climate, not a phrase often heard in conjunction with either scotland's west coast or the classic routes of western europe. however, the same legend points out that salt lake city does sometimes get cold, with a record low of -30 degrees.
if i was willing to give salt-lake city based snek cycling the benefit of the doubt, the arrival of their merino winter cap all but undermined that possibility. lifting the garment from its cardboard box, i seriously had to wonder how on earth anything that thin was ever going to shield my ears and head from sub-zero windchill. in the words of the great confucious "there must surely be some mistake?"
not for the first time in my career was i subsequently forced into a main course of humble pie.
built from a polyester/merino wool blend and featuring a micro-fibre suede sweatband, the heather grey (also available in black) snek winter hat was positively brilliant over 140 kilometres of serious windchill that had me reaching once again for my thermal gloves. my head was kept at a temperature equating to regular operating parameters. and not only that, but with a comfort level that twice had me checking to make sure i'd put the cap on before leaving the coffee shop.
as if its thermal properties did not recommend it highly enough, wearing it on a day when islay's mercury entered double digits for the first time in a long while, only underlined its marvellous versatility. while the option of tucking the ear-flaps under the cap when warm is hardly unique to snek, on doing so there was none of the usual suggestion that my hair had become suddenly a whole lot thicker than it had appeared when in front of the bathroom mirror. and had we inadvertantly experienced a mid-april heatwave, the cap is of such slim constitution that not only would it have easily fitted a rear pocket, but would have scarcely troubled the elastic in the process.
at a price of $62 (approx £43) it's hardly an impulse purchase, but rest-assured, if you choose to order either colour in one of the two available sizes, you will not be disappointed, particularly in the light of it having all the potential to become the only cap you'll ever need, winter or summer. the one caveat i might highlight, however, is that it will never make you look like jacques or eddy.
thursday 21 april 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................